The AC Transit board of directors is considering cutting bus service by 15 percent or more because of ongoing budget problems, according to the Contra Costa Times. The planned cut comes on top of the agency's decision earlier this year to raise the basic fare 14 percent - from $1.75 to $2.00, making AC Transit one of the most expensive bus rides in the Bay Area. The cuts also come after East Bay voters approved a measure last November to tax themselves about $15 million annually to help offset the agency's financial problems. AC Transit officials promised voters at the time that the ballot measure would allow the agency to avoid a fare increase and service cuts. So much for campaign promises. The agency blames its budget problems now on a decline in state revenues, lower sales tax receipts, and rising employee salary and benefit costs. The agency, however, continues to defend its extensive and often unnecessary purchases of expensive Belgian buses.
The planned service cuts also come on top of a string of such cuts earlier this decade. As the Express reported last year, AC Transit slashed its total number of bus lines from 157 to 93 between 2002 through 2007, because of continuing financial problems, thereby significantly reducing the number of neighborhoods the agency serves. The agency's cuts have been particularly tough on the East Bay's lowest-income residents. Meanwhile, since 2002, the agency has bought hundreds of the Van Hool buses, using money from its general fund, without soliciting bids from other bus manufacturers.